Monday, July 24, 2017

No country for young people

When I got to graduate school, I felt overwhelmed listening to other graduate students talk about their research topics.  One of them--also from my part of the old country--was working on her dissertation on population economics.  Until I ditched engineering and came to graduate school, I had always been under the impression that economics was about money.  And that was it.  And she was talking about population.  One of the many foundational instances when I realized that I am nothing but a fake, whose fakery will soon be exposed.

Now, when I routinely discuss demographics in economic geography, I suppose some of the students--those paying attention--also begin to appreciate the important role that population change plays in our lives.  One of my favorites is to tell them that the longer we older people live, the less they will have.  If the class mood is right, I joke that they should not take it upon themselves to push us old folks off the cliffs ;)

With this president at the helm, and with his minions also not concerned about facts, I worry that we are not thinking about the world of a few years from now.  Take 2020, for instance.  Yes, that is when we will have the next presidential election.  But, from a demographic perspective, it will be a "yuge" deal for the world: For the first time in human history, there will be more people in the world over age 65 than under age 5.  Let me repeat that sentence for you: For the first time in human history, there will be more people in the world over age 65 than under age 5.  Get it?

Historic!  In 2030, the number of 65-plus on this planet will be--are you sitting down for this?--one billion people.  Imagine that--one billion 65-plus, including me!

That is worldwide.  In the old days, the lucky grandparents barely lived into their sixties.  Not anymore.  And not into the future.  Think of the economic implications.  Yes, the money aspect.  And think about one of the major issues--heath. You think this president is thinking about all those?  Of course not!  Imagine if we had a president and a bunch of leaders who were responsible and ethical and talked about such issues with substance.

We need such substantive discussions.  Consider the healthcare quagmire in which the Geriatrics Only Party has trapped itself.  And then think about the following chart:

Thirty years ago, I came to understand that experts were weighing in on how the changing demographics will affect everything.  Since then, the data have gotten better, and the quality of statistical models have become even better.  Most politicians also know about these trends; unfortunately for us, they choose not to talk about it and, instead, want us to chase some imaginary rabbits!

Aren't you all the happier with my plan? ;)


Ramesh said...

Your "plan" is not a plan. You may wish, but God disposes !

I have long railed against the disproportionate spending by society on the elderly instead of the young. In your country that is in health care. In my country that is in pensions. It is ridiculous when the pension spend is many times more than the education spend.

I hugely fault the old (yes, that includes myself) for simply being selfish and screwing their children. Why does somebody above 85 want $34783 spent on them and then cry "Death Panels" as soon as anybody talks about that number. A large proportion of that money is spent on the last one year of life. Why oh Why ?

What about the massive national debt that our generation is leaving behind for our children. They have to pay for our lifestyle. Fantastic.

Our generation has much to be ashamed about.

Sriram Khé said...

You are wrong. In our country, it is health care AND pensions!!!

Every rational public policy person knows, and has also written, about the insane amounts that we spend on the health care of the really old. People like Atul Gawande can rattle off real data (not alternative facts) at the drop of a hat ... But the issue has become so politicized that we are beyond any constructive approach!!!

It is not "our generation" that has to be ashamed. At least here in the US, it is the fault of the previous one--the white Baby Boomers!

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